Personal Log 3-6: You Put That Wrench Where?

How I Flunked Out of Starfleet Academy: Part 6

"Move it, cadets!" Sergeant DeSoto screamed at us from her perch above the mock warp core. "You're all about to become subatomic particles. Why is the warp core overheating? Why is the magnetic seal failing? Fix it. NOW!"

"Get out of my way, Stevens." McKay shoved me away from the conduit. "You're going to kill us all."

I stepped back, my wrench dangling uselessly from one hand. Sirens and alarms shrieked all around us. Billows of fake smoke filled the room. I covered my nose with my sleeve, coughing on the stench. The other cadets crowded around the core, adjusting dials and controls and sticking tools inside to twist things this way and that. The alarms howled, drowning out their screaming.

Everything suddenly went dark and silent. The cadets muttered curses as they backed away from the simulator. The regular lights snapped on. DeSoto wheeled her chair forward. Rumors were that she'd broken her leg while defusing an overloaded warp core on the Phoenix. She'd single-handedly saved the entire crew of fifty. No one ever mentioned why the engines were past critical in the first place.

"You are all dead, dead, DEAD. McKay, what should you have done differently?"

McKay sniffed. He pointed his flux adjuster at me. "We should have kept her away from the engine."

DeSoto flicked a single glance at me. "Why?"

"Because she's a total loser. She's General Studies and can't even do that."

"So it's her fault that your warp core went critical? It had nothing to do with you failing to flush enough coolant through the proper systems?"

McKay's face turned bright red. He stared at his feet.

"And you, Jacqueline, is it? What went wrong at the control panel? You didn't notice the temperature was rising until it was too late. You need to keep your eyes on your station, not on your fellow officers no matter how attractive." She tapped her com badge. "Computer reset simulation Delta six five. Start simulation in ten seconds." She wheeled her way from the test area, taking the lift to her perch above us in the control booth.

"Don't screw it up this time, Stevens." McKay threatened me with his flux adjuster.

"Oh, leave her alone," Connor spoke up. His voice was hoarse from screaming like a little girl when the alarms first triggered.

"Just stand over there and don't touch anything." McKay pointed imperiously at the far side of the room.

I shrugged and stood in the corner. If they didn't want me there, too bad. Admiral Williamson gave me his personal permission to be there. I dangled my wrench and watched them fumble their way through the cool down drill.

There were ten of them in the room, plus me. The others took their stations at the various control points around the warp core. Things seemed to be running smoothly. McKay bossed everyone around while pretending to keep an eye on the magnetic flux coils. Jackie went right back to flirting with the cadet next to her. I didn't know his name, but he did look like a poster child for the Academy, all good looks and white teeth.

The alarms sounded, the warning blare of an impending problem. The cadets scrambled to their stations, checking dials and flipping switches. I tapped my wrench against my palm. More alarms sounded. The lights flipped to red. The warp heat indicators continued to climb despite McKay's shouting.

I noticed the valve next to me was closed. I moved to the wall to check the full array. All of the manual coolant bypass valves were closed. No wonder the engine was overheating. Some idiot had shut coolant flow to maintenance levels. I twisted the first knob. It wouldn't budge. I jammed the wrench between the spokes and heaved. Smoke poured from the vents in the room. The sirens hit maximum volume. I put my shoulder into it, shoving until the valve broke free and spun open. I moved to the next one and repeated the procedure. The smoke slowed to a trickle, several alarms shut up. The last three valves were much easier to turn. By the time I had the last one open, the warp core was cooling back to normal levels and the alarms were silent. I pulled my wrench out of the last valve and turned around.

McKay stared at me, his mouth hanging open. The other nine cadets stood behind him, all watching me.

DeSoto slowly applauded. The others joined in after a moment. It was my turn to blush. And smile just a bit. All I'd done was open a few valves, but that was all that was needed. Maybe I wasn't a total failure.

Personal Log 3-7: Adrian vs. the Replicator

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